How Do You Train Managers For The Challenges Of Tomorrow?

If you want to introduce real change in an industry is it better to change course, or start from scratch? In the case of the electric vehicle market the likes of Cathie Wood, founder and CEO of investment management firm Ark Invest has argued that the likes of GM and Ford simply don’t have the DNA for the EV market and will be outpaced by the likes of Tesla.

Elon Musk’s EV and clean energy company certainly doesn’t have the accumulated baggage of a century of Detroit-based production, and it might explain why the market cap of Tesla is greater than GM, Ford, VW and Toyota combined. With electric-truck maker Rivian now the biggest U.S. company by market value with no revenue, disruptors seem to have the upper hand.

What about introducing change to business education? It is a challenge that Guillermo Cisneros, Dean of the newly launched Advantere School of Management in Madrid is eager to take on.

“We will create solutions for the challenges faced by business and society not by clinging to the study of cases from the past, but by thinking of solutions nobody else is thinking of. Business schools need to recognize that companies don’t hire their graduates because of the things they know but because of the things they are capable of doing with the things they know.”

Cisneros sees executives in most companies as risk managers/ “They avoid failure, they manage risk, the focus is in not losing. This is very important in organizations, but it is not enough.” he argues that entrepreneurs, innovators and change makers are uncertainty managers. “The focus is in what to gain, how to add value, and create new solutions. Real leaders are uncertainty managers, confronting everyday ambiguity and uncertainty and reducing it for others.”

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It is a perspective to taking risks that echoes, albeit more eloquently the belief of Founder of Space X and CEO of Tesla Elon Musk, who claims, “There’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.”

Cisneros’ thinking is backed up by years of experience. In addition to launching a new campus and courses for one of Europe’s leading business schools he was also vice president for Global Initiatives at Berklee College of Music in Boston, with responsibility for all international programmes and the launch of its first international campus.

The analogy that Advantere’s dean makes between music and business schools is therefore fitting. “Traditional business schools are classic music, still good music, but classic. Advantere is rock and roll, or jazz music, or hip-hop. In classical music education, students learn how to re-create, perform and reproduce perfectly what composers from decades and centuries ago created. In modern music education students have a strong technical background and preparation, but the goal is learning to create things – ideas, compositions that didn’t exist before.”

And this is the key message at Advantere School of Management. They are learning by design, confronting new challenges and creating new solutions that have not been thought of before – a new business education model to challenge the old way of doing things.

For Guillermo Cisneros management is not just about business. “Business is just a part of what managers do. This is why we do not want to be seen as just a business school. We are committed to a better world, where issues such as sustainability and social justice are accessible to everyone. More than a business school, we shape challenge managers.”

Founded by two prestigious Spanish universities, Comillas Pontifical University and University of Deusto, and with Georgetown University as a strategic academic partner, Advantere draws on these stakeholders as well as corporate partners, educators and students to make the venture a disruptive co-creation project.

“If you analyse the companies and organizations that are transforming their industries, the do not follow the classical rules,” explains Cisneros. “Companies like Amazon and Tesla are changing the rules, creating new rules. So at Advantere we want students to have a key role in the definition of what the institution is, creating new rules for what it should be.”

He recognizes that co-creation is not for everyone, but sees it as a fundamental sign of strength in an organization. “Giving a role and a voice to your ‘clients’ is the most effective way to innovate and always head in the right direction. You have clear goals and purpose, you know what you want to be, but you are smart enough to know that you do not have all the answers, and that the future is written together with others.”

The Madrid-based school is launching four Masters programs in Management, Finance, Marketing and Talent Management that start in October 2022, and Guillermo Cisneros says they are not looking for the typical business student. “At Advantere we do not seek to educate more business leaders, but to create Challenge Managers. Those who can manage uncertainty, take risks and lead with purpose. We want to welcome what we call “re-solutionaries”, and our admission process is designed to identify such individuals.”

With a wide range of scholarships and financial support schemes, provided both through the Society of Jesus and the founding universities, the school expects to attract students from around the world with a diverse range of backgrounds who share the common goal of making the unbelievable possible.

“If you want to make an impact, if you want to add value, you are a re-solutionary,” insists Cisneros, ”and we want you on board.”

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